Sunday, October 25, 2015

So Caught Up, NU

Nebraska football fans are stuck in the past, and the only thing they're more likely to do than reminisce about the 1995 college football national championship team being the best there ever was is to attend a concert by a 1980s band at least 25 years past its prime while posting countless pictures on Facebook and pretending that band is a still a legitimate entity. Def Leppard, Elton John, .38 Special -- take your pick. They're so caught up, on NU, that they keep expecting satisfactory results when the team shows as much potential as Motley Crue does on its most recent, "final" tour.

The latest leg on NU's 2015 Ineptitude Tour was a 30-28 home loss to Northwestern in yesterday's 11am "Pam Ward Game." Making matters worse was the fact the 1995 team members attended the game and were honored at halftime. Tommie Frazier looked unhealthy, and reminded us all the nobody outruns Father Time. Clester Johnson, Tony Veland and Chris Dishman reminded us that Nebraska high schools used to produce Division I football talent. Both linemen and skill players. Both black and white.

Damon Benning wore aviator sunglasses, and pretended to be the ring leader of the group and pretended that he was a factor on that team. Lance Brown did Fireball shots off an ice luge and reminded everyone why he was known for being an idiot more than anything he did on the field. And Terrell Farley made us smile briefly, then cry, because he was fucking awesome. And then gone. And Lincoln has seen nothing like him since.

As for the NU Wildcats, they did little, if anything, to win the game. Nebraska effectively played against the computer -- and still lost. It was a turd of epic proportions, right up there with the eight-turnover, I'm-so-proud-to-be-your-coach Iowa State job. Another for the annals of this 'woe is me' season of so many close losses. Never mind that they've been completely self-inflicted and to teams like Miami that got bottle blasted 58-0, at home, to Clemson yesterday.

NU and Mike Riley likely sealed their fate as bowl outsiders. They did so as a member of the nation's worst "Power Conference" and subjected their fans to 12 more months of self-loathing, turned to spinning by Spring football, turned to Summer delusion. By August 2016, the Cornhuskers will once again be on-paper tigers.

One week after a near-blowout win on the road at Minnesota, Nebraska fell back to Earth by doing nearly everything wrong. Or actually nothing at all. PYB will roll roughshod during today's entry, Dear Diary. If NU can't bother to build a coherent game plan in a full week of practice and can't manage to build an identity in nearly two decades, why should we?

--We should have expected another stale effort in Lincoln Saturday. ESPN began the proceedings with its latest bad installment of College Gameday, this time from the campus of James Madison, as it looks to squeeze a few nickels from the FCS coffers while commercializing and ruining one more tier of college football. Multiple hours of hype and nonsense, ending with game picks from its weekly celebrity (Dierks Bentley - the country singer that went to the University of Vermont), two ESPNers that cannot put two sentences together for different reasons (Lee Corso -- stroke/old age. Desmond Howard -- idiot) and a holier-than-thou Kirk Herbstreit -- a guy who abstains from picking any games which he'll announce later that day while gladly taking blowjobs from campus co-eds who aren't his wife.

--NU Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf has taken a lot of valid criticism this season for his Pull and Pray Offense. When in doubt, go deep. When you finally hit one deep, do it more. PYB has been a regular critic. This type of offense has as much consistency as the Pull and Pray method of birth control, and comes complete with the next-day regrets and unintended, mostly-very-negative consequences.

But Saturday, Langsdorf was given little choice, as the Nebraska offensive line had its worst performance of the season by far. Better said, it was a fucking joke. Zach Sterup whiffed more than Alfonso Soriano in an MLB playoff series. Stop passing, fans said, and run the fucking ball. The numbers tell another story:

By PYB's count, NU had 34 first down plays. NU ran on 19 of those. NU netted 51 yards on those 19 tries. That's 2.68 yards per carry, and average of 2nd & 8. That won't cut it -- not even in the rugged Big 10. Against bad teams. That got blasted in successive weeks by Iowa and then Michigan with Iowa's castoff quarterback.

Do we think Langsdorf could use quarterback Tommy Armstrong's running ability better (anyone else see the option run for a touchdown)? Do we think he could protect Armstrong more, by calling at least a few passes he could actually complete? Do we think Andy Janovich, who's averaged seven yards a carry this season, should get more than two afterthought carries? Do we think 48 passing attempts is too many, whatever the circumstance? Do we think the Hero Ball mentality does more harm than good, where one long, lucky pass completion often breeds 10 more bad throws? The answer is Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

But, the cupboard is bare. On the offensive line. At running back. At receiver, where the star (Jordan Westerkamp) is a number-two receiver who's surrounded by a bunch of number-threes. As a group, they had at least five drops yesterday, including two potential touchdowns and at least 75 yards in unrealized yardage. At quarterback, where the staff ignores Armstrong's limitations. And he continues to make too many errors, use poor mechanics, take too many risks and underthrow every deep ball by a several yards. Could he be an effective college quarterback, with the proper management? We say absolutely, but two-thirds of the way through his college career, it appears we'll never know.

Another disheartening note was Riley's game mismanagement. His use of a timeout before Northwestern's 3rd and 3 late in the fourth quarter rendered his last two timeouts useless once his Blackskirt defense relinquished a first down. Eight games into his Nebraska career, his amateurish grasp of the clock and wind has been bad enough to make Frank Solich blush.

PYB received some requests to cover certain topics this week, mostly due to our laziness following the Minnesota game, and because we asked for ideas since we have little to say that hasn't been said 100 times.

Terrell Newby: He's the Anti-Abdullah. Doesn't fumble. No vision. No jukes. No running through tackles. No yards after contact. No cutbacks. Needs blocking to gain yardage. Could be a nice third-down option in an offense with a quarterback capable of throwing screen passes. As it stands, he's Exhibit A as to just how shallow NU's talent pool is. (Side note: Has anyone seen how bad the Detroit Lions offensive line is? Abdullah spends more time running for his life than he did in Lincoln).

Alonzo Moore: Has made some athletic plays on jump balls. As for his potential as a legitimate wide receiver, we won't know until he has a quarterback who can lead his targets on deep balls and consistently hit them coming out of breaks. Looks like a long strider who would only excel with a pure passer at the helm. For now, it appears we'll get glimpses of his alleged talent followed by games like Northwestern where he's not a factor. One catch, seven yards. As for his utility as a weapon on the jet sweep -- scrap it. Doesn't work. Not shifty enough.

Jordan Stevenson: Not  much commentary is needed here. His performance speaks for itself. One would think he'd have broken one for more than 20 yards by now by accident. Not so. Can he play running back? Can Devine Ozigbo? If none of these guys can steal reps from Newby -- what does that say?

So, maybe the 1995 team members stood horrified on the sidelines, wondering how in the world Solich tazed the program into a 18-year-and-running stupor. Maybe they exhaled, relieved they never had to be part of a such a disaster.

Whatever and however it happened, it's reality. And looking back to the glamour era won't help anything. It will only ensure more morning kickoffs on ESPNU. More embarrassing losses. And more depressing winters in Lincoln, where the only glimmer of hope comes on days when a washed-up rock band rolls into town to extract a few more dollars from fans still holding on to memories of better times.

Holding on, loosely....


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